Entries in Customer Service (4)


Avatars to Assist Passengers at New York City Airports

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Three New York City-area airports have introduced a new type of greeter. At Newark Liberty International, it's Libby. At LaGuardia, it's Marie. And at John K. Kennedy International Airport, it's Sarah, and they're there to assist passengers by dispensing all sorts of helpful information about ground transportation and other concerns.

They're the best kind of worker. Sarah, Libby and Marie don't take time off. They don't get sick. They always smile at the passengers. Oh, and they're totally fake -- they're virtual Customer Care Representatives, or, as they're more commonly known, avatars.

The avatars were introduced Wednesday at LaGuardia and last month at Newark. JFK's avatar starts work on Thursday. The avatars recite from a script and start talking whenever anyone comes within 30 feet.

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is renting them for six months for $180,000. After that time, they'll evaluate the success of the program and determine if they'll be in place permanently.

The avatars are part of a technology initiative announced in May. Other improvements include 100 additional power poles to supply electronic devices throughout the terminals at all three airports. There's also additional food court seating. Full-time restroom attendants have been hired at Newark's Terminal A, where facilities have not been modernized lately to meet increased demand. There also will be new digital "Next Bus" arrival time signs at Newark Liberty and more quality control visits to airport stores to ensure customers are treated well.

Another customer enhancement initiative being launched at Newark, JFK, and LaGuardia is a new smartphone app -- a free FlySmart mobile application that sends real-time flight notifications to iPhone, Android and Blackberry smartphones. The app will include listings for ground transportation and concessions, as well as maps of the terminals.

The avatars are located in the arrivals area in the Central Terminal Building at LaGuardia and at the Welcome Center in JetBlue's Terminal 5 at JFK. Libby, Newark's avatar, can be found in Terminal B.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Foreign Call Centers Phone Home

Pixland/Thinkstock(FORT WORTH, Texas) -- Have you had a complaint about a product? A problem with your brand-new computer? A question about a perplexing corporate policy?

It’s likely that your search for answers has spanned continents and traveled thousands of miles, sometimes without your even knowing it. Foreign call centers are not just a part of our everyday lives; they have also occupied a prominent place in the cultural lexicon.

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From the USA Prime Credit commercials with “Peggy,” the not-so-helpful customer service representative, to the Oscar-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire, Americans have come to believe that even when they’re told they’re speaking with “Sherry in St. Louis,” it’s more likely “Baruni in Bangalore.”

In the '80s and '90s, a stunning number of American companies began outsourcing their call centers. As many as 600,000 American jobs evaporated -- moved to the Philippines, India and elsewhere, where operators learned English as a second language, and chose their “American names.”

American companies were saving a lot of money, but now, many of those same companies are bringing their call centers home.

Eight thousand miles away from the call centers in India, there’s now a call center in Fort Worth, Texas. It is one of five NOVO1 -- a company that runs call centers -- has in the U.S.

The Fort Worth center employs 800 American workers and is growing.

What changed NOVO1′s business is the answers Americans are looking for when they seek help from live operators.  Americans used to need to call a representative for a password reset or an account balance. Now all that can be done online.

The answers that are not available online are much more complicated, especially for those overseas operators to answer.

“Is it really cheaper if it takes two calls to handle that customer?” Mary Murcott, CEO of NOVO1, told ABC News. “I can do the math very quickly and tell you it’s more expensive -- that job offshore.”

A call center job in America starts off paying anywhere from between $20,000 and $40,000 a year, while in India the same job would pay just $2,400 a year.

It is a price many say is worth paying for the higher productivity achieved with American workers -- and the ability to never have a customer ask to be connected to someone in the United States.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Consumers Still Complaining About Car Dealers, Credit Companies

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Besides the weak economy, Americans are still encountering everyday problems with companies offering goods and services.

Consumer complaints are as pervasive as they ever were, although not quite as bad in 2010 as they were the year before.  The reasons for the drop-off may have more to do with a reduction in staffing at local consumer agencies rather than companies becoming more efficient.

According to the annual survey from the Consumer Federation of America and other agencies, the top complaints were made against car dealers and credit companies, while debt grievances were also widespread.

Here's the list of the top 10 consumer complaints for 2010:

1. Auto
2. Credit and debt
3. (tie) Home improvement/construction and retail sales
5. Utilities
6. Services
7. Internet sales
8. Household goods
9. Landlord/tenant disputes
10. Fraud

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Complaints of Bad Customer Service on the Rise, Survey Finds

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(YONKERS, N.Y.) -- Have you ever been so steamed at a rude salesperson that you walked right out of a store?  If so, you're not alone.

A new survey by Consumer Reports found that 64 percent of consumers have done just that in the past year, citing shoddy customer service.

Moreover, the magazine also found that over 70 percent of Americans get angry when they get tied up in endless automated phone loops and can't get an actual person on the phone.

Consumer Reports' Senior Project Editor Tod Marks says if a company is giving you the runaround don't be afraid to go to the top.

"When you get a top executive or their assistant, when they get an unhappy call from an unhappy consumer, they'll often be sure that the CEO or the people upstairs take action and get a response," Marks says.

He also advises consumers who receive bad service and need to call a company to keep a paper trail of who they spoke with and what happened.

"That way if you need to follow up you can say to the next person up the food chain, 'I just spoke to Joe Blow in your Chicago office at 12 o'clock in the afternoon, and after being kept on hold for thirty minutes, he said he'd never heard of anyone who had a problem like mine,'" says Marks.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio